This week I changed my Facebook picture. I did so to support a political cause in which I believe. In what follows I want to explain why what I did was a sin, and why I am led to confess it and ask your forgiveness.
Let me start by saying I haven’t changed my mind. I still believe that the cause I supported is just and fair. Unlike most political causes, I see this one as a simple and straightforward matter of common sense justice. Most importantly, I believe the position I supported best comports with the mind of Christ. So what’s with all this sin talk? Here’s what:
First, I have to recognize that I have a fiercely partisan spirit. Every political cause to which I attach myself is at least as much about my side winning as it is about the right decision being made for our country or society. I am often proud and arrogant about my political opinions, believing that those who hold positions different to mine do so, not out of genuine conviction, but out of bad faith or intellectual inferiority. I have undoubtedly brought that spirit into this week’s debate.
But second, and more important, I want to admit that simply by holding to my position (irrespective of the way I’ve held it), I have fractured the Body of Christ and grieved Christian brothers and sisters. To see why, you have to understand the tragic nature of the human predicament. This universal flaw we call sin so manifests itself in human life that even our attempts at justice wind up causing others harm. This doesn’t mean we have to give up our search for justice, but it does compel us to see that no human justice will ever be perfect (you theological types know that this is no new insight; St. Augustine and Reinhold Niebuhr have already explained it quite well).
In my case, aligning myself with that political position brought grief to other Christians, some of whom are my friends and family. My position violated certain of their deeply held theological convictions, causing them to worry about me. Many of those on my side of the debate would say that the folks on the other side think I’m going to hell for what I believe. But that’s not right, at least not for most of the folks I know. They don’t think that my beliefs endanger my eternal salvation; they think that I’ve fallen into serious error, that I’m compromising the cause of Christ, and potentially harming the consciences of Christians over whom my views might exert influence. The friends with whom I disagree, because they care for me, have been hurt by what I’ve done.
And for that I am truly and genuinely sorry. Would I do things differently? In this case, no. Like I said, I still believe with all my heart in the justice of what I have espoused. But I also know that I am a sinner, and that for every two steps forward I take there’s going to be at least one step back. So if you are a fellow Christian on the other side of this debate, please know that if I have violated your conscience, it is simply because the only alternative was to violate mine.